A former British Airways flight attendant claims her health collapsed after she was “poisoned” by fumes while working on aircraft, as it emerged that four UK airlines are being sued by 74 cabin crew who say they were exposed to contaminated air.
Trudie Dadd, 56, says she suffered “unbelievable fatigue”, memory and stomach problems, confusion, and numbness in her feet after she was twice exposed in one year to fumes on BA flights.
The former purser, who flew with BA for 20 years, accused airlines of “burying their heads in the sand” and dismissing concerns about the health risks of so-called “fume events”.
Figures leaked to The Sunday Times showed there were at least 292 incidents of fumes or smoke inside aircraft operated by British carriers between June 2014 and May 2015. Illness was reported in 96 cases. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which collects the data, would not comment on the figures.
Sources say there have been a spate of recent events involving BA’s fleet of so-called “super-jumbo” A380 passenger jets. There were 12 fume events on BA A380s in a 30-day period between October and November, according to one source. In one incident, involving a flight between Singapore and Heathrow last month, five cabin crew reported feeling ill, another source claimed.
Nearly all commercial airliners have a system that compresses air from the engines and uses it to pressurise the cabin. If, however, seals inside the engine leak, heated oil fumes can enter the air supply, contaminating it with chemicals that some experts believe can lead to serious health problems and in some cases death.
Campaigners claim cabin crew are most at risk because of the cumulative effect of years of exposure to contaminated air.
Unite, the union, is representing 74 cabin crew, including Dadd, who claim they were made ill by toxic cabin fumes. More than 60 cases involve former BA staff. Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Jet2 also face personal injury cases. “It is a health issue which the airline industry has been aware of for some time and is so serious that our members are likening it to the impact of asbestos on the building industry,” said Howard Beckett, Unite’s executive director for legal services.
Questions remain over the death in January 2014 of a BA steward, Matthew Bass, 35.
Toxic organophosphates — which are found in substances such as jet engine oil — were discovered in his body, an inquest heard last year.
The inquest will resume in the new year and could shed light on the risks posed by contaminated cabin air.
Dadd, from Sandhurst, Berkshire, claims she was exposed to a strong smell that she described as like bad feet mixed with nail polish remover, while she was preparing drinks in the galley of a BA flight from Madrid to Heathrow in April 2014. She felt ill as she drove home and, after returning to work for a few days, she remained in bed ill for around two weeks.
A year later, in April 2015, she experienced another strong chemical smell and then an exhaust smell as her aircraft came into land at Heathrow from Barcelona. “Over the next few months my health really started to deteriorate badly,” she said. “I couldn’t remember simple things